What do I want a SAL to do?

And, also a pertinent question, what do I not want a SAL to do, especially this particular SAL? Well, for one thing I don’t want it to give the wrong impression, and it might, in view of recent FoFs. So let’s get that out of the way first!

For the first module of the RSN Certificate I am required to stitch a Tree of Life in the Jacobean style, in crewel wool on twill. Although I haven’t quite decided on the final colours (well, I know which colours, but not necessarily where and in what stitch) the design is pretty much done. It’s got a very stylised tree, with large leaves, and some critters.

Colour schemes for the RSN Certificate

As you can read on the SAL information page, the design for this stitch-along is a Tree of Life, and it is described as a very stylised tree, with large leaves, and some critters. This might just lead people to think that the SAL is based on the Certificate course, and from there it might easily lead to some rather too high expectations – let’s make it quite clear, I’m not aiming to get you to RSN Certificate level in 10 easy instalments!

In fact the SAL Tree of Life came into being long, long before I even thought of the Certificate as something I might possibly one day do. It was initially inspired by a tree I saw in picture of some Indian embroidery which had a sinuous stem and seven leaves. I took it from there, and my Tree does still have a sinuous stem and seven leaves but otherwise doesn’t resemble the Indian tree in the slightest. But – and this is important – nor does it resemble what I might call a Certificate tree. It is not Jacobean (although it could certainly be stitched in crewel wools on twill), and although it will contain many different stitches, it is not nearly as complex and detailed as a Certificate piece is expected to be; a relatively small number of colours is suggested (partly to keep the costs down – see below) but unlike with the limited palette of the Certificate tree, here there are no rules and you can stitch the whole things as a rainbow of leaves if you like.

Sneak peeks at the SAL

So what does the SAL aim to do? Does it have an aim at all? Does it have to? You may know that I am a great believer in never asking of a piece of needlework: “What is it for?” As far as I’m concerned stitching is for enjoying, that’s what it’s for. Even so, when one of the kind friends who gave their opinions and advice about the SAL information page asked me a similar question, it made me take a good look at the whole project. Why did I decide to publish this design as a SAL-with-variations, with all the time and effort that goes into writing the instructions for the extra stitches and 10 blog posts with detailed photographs of the stitching process and so on? And when I put it like that, I realised that my motivation for the SAL was not that much different from the motivation for my taster sessions and workshops. Here is what I replied:

“As with the Hardanger SALs it’s definitely intended for people who want to Have A Go. I hope that those who are more experienced will be kept interested by the variety and choice of stitches, but my ‘target audience’ is those who have never tried freestyle embroidery, or perhaps just dabbled a bit, and would like to see if it’s for them.
If you have been cross stitching for some time you’re likely to have all the threads you need in your stash (if you choose the stranded cotton route) so just add a piece of fabric and some sequins and beads (which you may also already have) and you’re good to go with not much of a financial outlay (another of my main concerns).”

In other words, I’d love people to try something new, or to enjoy something familiar in a slightly different way; to be challenged but not frightened off; to create something decorative; and to be able to do so without having to take out a mortgage smiley. If that appeals to you, do join in!

Stitching setbacks – a spot and a SAL

In which one of Hengest’s pink spots is in The Wrong Place, and a SAL hits a snag.

They say we show our character by how we respond to adversity. Well, I didn’t throw either a tantrum or my embroidery, so I suppose I’m doing reasonably well. But I can’t say I enjoyed it when two of my pet projects suffered a setback this week.

At least one of them is going to be relatively simple to put right. Time-consuming and annoying, but simple. It involves unpicking the pink spot at Hengest’s bottom left, getting the skein of Tudor Rose 2 out again, and applying it two spots to the right.

Hengest's spot in in The Wrong Place

And I was so proud of that spot, too! The white surrounding it was a little irregular (a small portion of the outline was straight rather than curved) so I set out to correct that with the coloured spiral filling it in, and I was pleased to see that it worked quite well. Then, as I fastened off, put on my regular glasses, and prepared to contemplate my work with a happy and satisfied sigh, I noticed it was straight underneath the other pink spot. And it shouldn’t have been. Why I didn’t see this throughout the time it took me to stitch the second spot I will never know. I have said before that sometimes we are too close to our own work (literally) and need to step back to see the project as a whole, and I suppose that’s what was needed here. Oh well. Today I will take my nice sharp scissors to Hengest once again, and stitch the correct spot.

The other problem may take a bit longer to solve. It involves the mechanics of a mystery Stitch-A-Long, thwarted (for the time being) by the mechanics of using a backing fabric.

This was not the way I had hoped to announce this SAL. It will be my first since 2016, and it will be my first non-Hardanger one, and it will be my first non-year-long one, and all of that I felt deserved a bit of a fanfare when I was ready to spring it on the world, and the needleworking part of the world in particular.

Of course I could have waited for this issue to be solved (if it ever is) and then done the fanfare unveiling and not mention the rocky road that lead to it. But then I thought some of you might be interested in the process of developing a SAL, and all – or at least some of – the things that are involved.

So here is the snag I ran into. The SAL is going to be a Mystery SAL, which means you don’t know at the start what the finished article will look like. In a sense this was always somewhat compromised in my Hardanger SALs, in that they consisted of 12 individual little projects, so that each month you would see exactly what that small individual project would look like when finished – the remaining mystery being what the following months would be like and how they fitted in with the general theme. This one, being one big freestyle embroidery picture built up in the course of 10 instalments, is much more of a traditional Mystery.

And it is the combination of the phrases “one big picture” and “freestyle embroidery” that caused the problem. Freestyle designs are generally worked with the pattern transferred to the fabric; this can be done in more or less detail, but there is always some transferring to be done. And in a home environment that generally means drawing the pattern onto the fabric by means of a lightbox or well-lit window. Then you add a backing fabric and hoop it up and start stitching.

So far so good. But for the Big Picture to remain a mystery, the various parts will have to be added after stitching has already commenced. My idea was that whenever a new instalment came out, people would take their project out of the hoop, add the new element, re-hoop and start stitching the new bit. What I hadn’t thought about was that what comes out of the hoop is not just the original fabric, but the fabric-and-backing-fabric sandwich. And they will be firmly attached to each other by means of the stitching done so far.

An embroidered project with backing fabric The backing fabric is attached by the embroidery The embroidery goes through the backing fabric

So how do you transfer the new bits? Transferring through one layer of fabric can be tricky enough – transferring through a double layer of fabric is challenging to say the least, and I feared it might prove to be downright impossible. Because of the way the design is laid out, you could just about cut out new bits of the design and carefully slip them between the layers where they are not attached, but that’s not ideal, especially when using a window rather than a lightbox.

My husband, who is an engineer and therefore wants to (and often does) solve things, suggested using the prick & pounce method. (Slight digression to include a “proud wife” moment – how many husbands of stitchers would suggest this, or even know what it is smiley?) But not everyone feels comfortable with this method of transferring, and moreover it needs additional equipment, which I’m trying to keep to a minimum.

But it did make me think of a possible variation on that method. What if you traced the new bit of the design onto tracing paper, then pricked holes in it as for prick & pounce, only a spaced a little wider apart, place it on the fabric and then go through each hole with a pencil to make a dot? Then after removing the tracing paper you could connect the dots for a complete transfer. Again, the nature of the design makes this feasible as there aren’t many very detailed parts to transfer. But would it work? Time to try Prick & Pencil!

On the matter of additional equipment, in the pictures I’m using a cheap children’s pricking mat and pen, but if that is difficult to get hold of or simply an expense you’re not willing to incur, then a folded-up towel and a pin with a reasonably large head will do just as well. The pencil I’m using is a propelling one so it stays sharp, and it’s fairly soft so it makes a good mark. As you can see on the right-hand petal I spaced the holes further apart to see if that would be enough of a guide for drawing the complete design.

Equipment used to try the prick and pencil method Pricking the transferred design The pricked design
Using a pencil to draw dots through the holes The design shown in dots Connecting the dots The finished transfer

And just because I happened to have them handy, I also tried the pricked transfer with some drawing pens, green and black; these are Sakura Micron pens (I transferred only the flower centre in black, not the petals).

Using a Sakura Micron pen A green and a black transfer

So does it work? On the whole, yes. I did find I needed the tracing there to refer to when connecting the dots, but that shouldn’t be a problem. It also takes a bit of experimenting with how close together you want the holes to be, and the light green pen wasn’t as easy to see as the black or the pencil (although it was clearer than it looks in the photograph) so you have to choose your writing implement wisely. But it’s definitely a viable alternative to transferring on a lightbox.

Is it a good enough alternative to SOS (Save Our SAL), though? I’m not sure yet. But it’s a glimmer of hope! And as I was playing with my lightbox, I found another – although transferring through two layers of fabric isn’t ideal, it’s not impossible as long as there isn’t a great amount of detail. The first picture shows a design seen through light blue cotton with no light behind it; the second shows it on the lightbox, and the third on the lightbox with backing fabric. Although the dots in the design aren’t easy to see, the simpler outlines are visible even in the third picture.

Design behind cotton fabric, no light Design behind cotton fabric, with light Design behind cotton fabric and backing, with light

Even when using cotton duck, a heavier fabric, the design lines show up both without and with backing fabric, though again details are lost. Unexpectedly, the most difficult fabric was a natural-coloured Normandie, a cotton/linen mix which is not particularly heavy. The picture shows it with backing fabric, and whether it is the texture or the not-quite-plain colour it would definitely be more of a challenge to transfer new parts to it.

Design behind cotton duck, with light Design behind cotton duck and backing, with light Design behind Normandie fabric and backing, with light

Still, there are possibilities, so for now the SAL is alive! But I’ll keep trying to find better and easier ways to deal with transferring parts 2 to 10 before the real fanfare announcement.

A last-minute rethink

Once upon a time there was a stitch. It looked lovely on paper. It had an attractive name. It got itself included in the Round in Circles SAL. It was stitched up in a model, and given a diagram and a description. So far so good.

But the more I looked at that stitched model, the less happy I was with it. Not with the design as a whole; that was fine. But with That Stitch. It looked fussy. And muddly. And not nearly as attractive as its paper counterpart. It had been stitched in two colours; I re-stitched it in one. It looked a little better, but not much. I re-charted it to be a little bigger, and had a go at various sizes and colour combinations on my doodle cloth. None of them did anything to brighten my day.

In the end I decided to go for a different sitch altogether. Unpick, re-chart, re-stitch, draw a new diagram and write new instruction – better that than putting out a design I’m not happy with!

And what was the offending stitch? A Maltese cross. I still like the name, and I still like the way it looks on paper. I even like some of its stitched versions. I did one myself four years ago, and it surprised me at the time by looking nothing like its charted version.

Maltese Cross

So what’s the trouble with it? I’m not absolutely sure. One problem may be that in the confines of a small design I chose to do a single “unit” of Maltese interlacing instead of this bigger version which consists of five looped sections (four for the arms of the cross, plus the central one). The larger version comes out as a highly textured cross, the single unit just looks rather blobby.

A single unit of Maltese interlacing

A few other ideas I picked up from images I found on the internet, and from doodle-cloth experiments based on them:

  • The stitch seems to work best (for me at least) in two highly contrasting colours, whereas the SAL will in most cases be either all-white, or two shades of the same colour.
  • The version I liked best uses the same weight of thread for the mesh and the weaving (which I didn’t in the SAL design), and quite a light weight for its size at that. I think my combination of a heavy weaving thread and a small size made it look too dense.

The Maltese cross below shows the high-contrast, lightweight look which I think works well, and which makes me think that even the small single-unit, low-contrast version in the SAL might have looked just about OK if it had been stitched in perle #12.

High-contrast, lightweight Maltese cross

However, I didn’t want to add yet another thread to the SAL, and by now I was getting thoroughly fed up with Maltese interlacing anyway smiley, so I will keep it stored away for future use in other projects, and use my alternative stitch for the SAL. And no, I’m not telling you yet what alternative stitch!

A SAL materials Christmas tree

Time for the next step in the 2016 Round In Circles Stitch-Along: you can now sign up! Another month until you can get your needles and threads out, but until then here is a bit more about the designs we’ll be stitching – something about the cost of doing the SAL, some ideas for stitchers who would like to vary their fabrics but not by colour, and a bit more information for those of you who have decided to do the White version (whether on coloured or white fabric).

Will the SAL eat heavily into your stash budget? It could, very easily, if you decided for example to stitch it using hand-dyed silk perles and silk ribbon and stranded silks on fine linen, and to use pure gold spangles instead of sequins. But it doesn’t have to. Assuming you buy your threads, beads, metallic braid and fabric from Sew & So in one purchase; sequins, sheer ribbon and a piece of felt from a local haberdashery shop; and metallic kid leather from Golden Hinde, then a white-on-white version on Hardanger fabric can be done for well under £35 (including postage and signing up for the SAL) or less than £3 per month. That is if there are absolutely no suitable threads, beads or scraps of felt in your stash and you have to buy everything from scratch, but you may well be able to use bits and pieces you already have. And of course there’s always Christmas/birthday/anniversary presents smiley.

What if you would like to experiment a bit with your fabrics, but you’d rather not use colour? Well, one option is to vary the count and raw material – that is to say, you could do some months on cotton, some on linen, some on mixed fabrics; and the counts could be anything from 18ct Davosa and 22ct Hardanger (cotton) to 22ct Fine Ariosa and 20ct, 25ct, 28ct and 32ct Lugana (cotton mix), from 18ct, 25ct and 32ct Floba (linen mix) to the Zweigart pure linens which range from 20ct to 55ct (that last one not recommended unless you’ve got extremely good eyesight…). Some of them even come with a little sparkle!

And finally a bit about stitching the SAL in white only. I have a confession to make. It’s not strictly speaking possible. The SAL includes a few stitches which only work in two colours, and one stitch which looks better in two colours than in one. This is why the materials list for the White version includes gold or silver braid. However, you could opt for a sparkly white braid (like Kreinik #4 5760 Marshmallow) – this would give enough contrast to make the aforementioned stitches work, while keeping the overal look white. If you’re happy to add a touch of gold or silver, you might want to add it to all twelve months, not just the ones where it is specified; so in those months where sparkle isn’t necessary I will suggest which stitches you could do in metallic braid anyway (if I forget, remind me).

For the stitched models I used the Colour version, but throughout 2016 I’ll be stitching the White version on those lovely hand-dyed fabrics I showed you a while ago. And this is what I’ll be stitching with, all neatly arranged into a seasonal tree shape as promised in the post title smiley. I’m looking forward to using them!

Materials for the White version of the SAL

The SAL approaches!

It is nearly the end of November and so in anticipation of the “Join the SAL” button appearing on 1st December I am ready and poised, with the whole SAL – all 12 chart packs with their charts, diagrams and instructions and all 24 blog posts with their explanatory close-up photographs – stored on my computer in glorious completeness, and a pile of 24 finished projects (12 on white fabric, 12 on coloured) mounted in cards and neatly tidied away in my project drawer.

If only. Or possibly even “yeah right”.

Don’t worry, we’re still on schedule here, I’m just not as far ahead of schedule as I would like to be. In some ways it would be reassuring to have the whole SAL ready for distribution throughout the coming year, but actually it’s much more fun to stitch the second set of 12 along with (or only a little bit ahead of) everyone else, and write the blog posts in real time – it also means I can react to feedback and rewrite descriptions or include extra photographs if that seems helpful.

And so I am gathering together lots of beautifully coloured Hardanger fabrics to use throughout 2016, and my doodle cloth is still at the ready to try things out and make last-minute changes if necessary. By the way, one necessary change has been to the SAL Materials List where some fairly vital words had got left out, and there was an “or” that should have been an “and”. So if you downloaded the list the moment I put it up, do please get the latest version.

And just to give you some ideas, here are the fabrics I’ve chosen for the White On Colour version: Sparklies’ hand-dyed Hardanger fabric in Cancer, Leo, Etain, Thalia and Ocean Depths, a solid coloured Hardanger (07 Dusty Green) from Spinning Jenny, and Chromatic Alchemy’s hand-dyed shade Dune.

Coloured fabrics for the SAL

As for the doodle cloth, does that provide a sneak peek at what will be in the SAL? Well, some of it does… and some of it doesn’t. You’ll have to wait and see which is which smiley.

Model stitching for the SAL – a snag

There are various reasons for stitching a model before releasing a design. With the SAL, one of them is that I need to work out how much thread is needed for each month (and preferably do that before 1st November…), but even when that is not an issue it’s a good idea to stitch something before allowing it out into the real world. The main reason is that you can do things on paper which you can’t do on fabric. On at least one occasion I managed to draw something that looked lovely, just what I wanted, but which was actually impossible to stitch. And I do mean impossible – if you’d tried to work it as originally drawn, you’d be undoing the first half of the stitch with the second half.

And even when it isn’t that disastrous, it is good to remember that a design on paper never looks exactly like that same design worked in thread on fabric. For one thing, Kloster blocks look beautifully square in my design program, and while in theory they should be, considering the number of threads they cover vertically and horizontally, in practice a Kloster block is a rectangle, narrower in the direction of the stitches than across.

Kloster blocks on a chart Kloster blocks on fabric

Normally I have this in the back of my mind and sort of compensate for it while designing; but one of the SAL designs has what you might call a “floating” Kloster block, one that doesn’t border on a cut area but is only there to balance things out. On paper, where all the Kloster blocks are square, it works just fine. Stitched, I’m not so sure. The design consists of two identical halves, so I stitched the two in different ways – one with, and one without the non-essential Kloster block. And I’m still not quite sure which one to choose! I may do a bit of shisha-ing while I mull this one over.

Meanwhile, I leave you with a little SAL Sneak Peek (like the one I posted on FaceBook a while ago, but with different colours to keep things interesting smiley).

A SAL sneak peek

Introducing the 2016 SAL

Remember the Song of the Weather SAL, way back in 2013? If not, have a look at the SAL Gallery and enjoy the wonderful ways in which lots of stitchers interpreted the monthly projects.

Nearly 200 stitchers around the world joined the Stitch-Along, which surprised no-one more than me smiley! And with the reactions all so enthusiastic, it seemed inevitable that there should be another one. In a bout of intense and completely misplaced optimism I thought I could get the second Mabel’s Fancies SAL organised for 2015. Not a chance.

What I did do was gather together a sizeable collection of sketches, notes, ideas, and scraps of fabric with stitch samples (some more successful than others). And at last that collection is big enough and organised enough to base a 12-month project on.

So today I am proud to announce *drumroll…*

The 2016 SAL

The 2016 Mabel’s Fancies Stitch-Along Round in Circles – 12 monthly projects of what you might call Hardanger Plus: Hardanger plus various surface stitches and embellishments, and a little ribbon work as well. And perhaps even a little optional goldwork…?

You can’t actually join yet, but on the SAL page you’ll find more information about the SAL itself and when various things will be happening, like the publication of the materials list. And before you know it, it’ll be January and we can start stitching and filling the new SAL Gallery!

Doodle cloths with a purpose

In a way I suppose all doodle cloths have a purpose – the purpose of letting you try out stitches to see whether you like them; of practising stitches and so getting familiar with them before using them on a “real” project; of comparing the effects that different types and weights of threads have on a stitch; of showing others how to work a stitch; of having a record (or sampler) of various stitches for future reference. Trial cloths, practice cloths, teaching cloths, reference cloths. In theory you could, presumably, have a purposeless doodle cloth, one that you simply pick up when you would like to do a bit of stitching but can’t be bothered or haven’t got the time to work on any of your projects. But in practice I think it would quickly turn into one of those four types mentioned above.

Ideally, doodle cloths shouldn’t be thrown away. No matter what their original purpose was, they can always be used for reference or to record what you’ve done and learnt over the years. Teaching cloths can be useful when, years later, you are about to teach a similar class or workshop. Colour combinations on a trial cloth may inspire a new design. I have once or twice consigned doodle cloths to the rubbish bin, and regretted it later.

But there is still a fair collection. The two Shisha Minis with four different corner motifs each fall into the reference category, even though strictly speaking they weren’t doodle cloths when I started them – they were mini projects that turned into doodle cloths because I couldn’t make up my mind. I have several cloths with large cut Hardanger areas filled with possible bars and filling stitches (and some impossible ones…) The doodle cloth I used at the shisha workshops (below left) was a teaching cloth from the start. The other picture shows a trial cloth on calico which, besides some stitches in just one version, contains several worked in different threads. It’s also a practice cloth for stitches I’ve never done before, which explains why some of them look distinctly wonky and, let’s be honest, rubbish. But that’s how you learn!

My doodle cloth Doodle cloth on calico

At the moment my most exciting doodle cloth is the one below. It’s 25ct Lugana mounted in a 10″ hoop and I will admit that it doesn’t look very exciting, being completely empty. But over the next month or so it should fill up with stitches to be used in the Round in Circles SAL, which I hope will start in January. Some of them will be counted versions of stitches on the calico doodle cloth, some will be different altogether, some will be familiar to people who did the Song of the Weather SAL, some won’t, but all of them are going to be my secret until 2016 smiley.

Setting up a doodle cloth on lugana

Silks, shisha and a SAL

In preparation for a holiday (and because I simply want to do some more surface or free style embroidery) I’ve been putting together a project folder. Five Kelly Fletcher flowers transferred to 55ct Kingston linen, and this: a box of silks from my stash – Chameleon Shades of Africa, various Gumnut silks and a wool/silk, Kreinik Silk Mori, Caron’s wool/silk Impressions, Au Ver à Soie Soie d’Alger, and Vicki Clayton’s Hand-Dyed Fibers.

Silks for Kelly Fletcher designs

There is another small project I set up over the Easter weekend; it’s a floral cross, one of Mary Corbet’s designs (from which I have omitted the crown). It seemed just perfect to stitch at Easter, but my husband cruelly but rightly reminded me that I was trying to finish Orpheus, so back to the eyelets it was. This will be added to the holiday project folder (although I do not for one moment believe that I’ll have time to finish a cross and five flowers!) The threads here are Alyce Schroth‘s fine silk, very matt and dyed with natural dyes; Pearsall’s Filoselle, which seems to have been discontinued while I wasn’t looking, and Au Ver à Soie Soie de Paris. I’ve only got two shades of green and blue so my shading won’t be as delicate as in the original (and not just because of the limited number of colours – I’m still finding my feet with needle painting), but I hope it will look all right anyway. From the pictures it seems Mary used stem stitch for the cross; I may go for long and short stitch. We’ll see.

Materials for a small cross with flowers (minus crown) by Mary Corbet

Fun though it is to put together quite unnecessary projects, other things were getting a little urgent – coming up with a shisha design for the Percival Guildhouse day class, for example (not to mention having to produce a stitched model of it). Going with variations on the shisha-mirror-in-a-paisley-motif theme, the first one was too simple (can’t have students finishing before lunch!), the second one too big (I want it to fit in a 6″ hoop as I have lots of them so I can lend them to students), but the third one turned out to be my Goldilocks design, just right smiley.

A simple shisha design - too small A more complex shisha design - too big Enough detail, and fits a 6-inch hoop - just right

Someone wrote to me recently to ask whether there would be another SAL. Well, I’m certainly working on it, and the aim is January 2016 – but I’ve run into a problem. Planning the SAL (if planning isn’t too grand a word; “thinking it would be a jolly nice idea” is probably more accurate most of the time), I doodle shapes and make lists of possible filling stitches, bars and surface stitches whenever they happen to occur to me (a notebook by the bed is essential). It soon became clear that I wanted a circular theme; unfortunately a large proportion of the surface stitches I’d like to include are linear. The solution?

Christmas. (To be continued…)

Finishing things

It’s Sinterklaasavond tonight – St Nicholas Eve. When I was a child in The Netherlands, this was an exciting evening; at 7 o’ clock there would be a mysterious knock at the door (courtesy of a kind neighbour roped in by Mum) and when we opened it there would be no-one there, only a basket of presents in gaily-coloured wrapping paper. I would already have received a chocolate letter in my shoe that morning, swapped for the carrot that was in it. And this suddenly makes me realise how odd one person’s familiar customs must sound to those raised with different traditions! We put out our shoe (or clog, if your proper Dutch smiley) with a carrot for St Nicholas’ horse. The usual return is chocolate coins, marzipan shapes or a chocolate letter. But St Nicholas has not yet made it across the Channel, so here in England I have to make do with baking traditional almond cakes, and providing for myself what I’m sure the generous old gentleman would have sent me if he were a bit more international.

What St Nicholas would have brought if he ever came to England

Perhaps because of my lack of St Nicholas celebrations I got to thinking about things that finish, and finishing things, and I got quite melancholy as I put the final wrapped bars into the Song of the Weather SAL’s final month. It’s hard to believe that I started planning this well over a year ago, and that my aspiration was to get 20 people to sign up; in the end, 192 did. It’s been a great experience, and one that will definitely be repeated, but not immediately – quite apart from stitching all the models (one each in standard perles and speciality threads) I had seriously underestimated the time needed to write and illustrate the twice-monthly blog!

There is another type of finishing, and it’s one I tend to avoid if I can: finishing stitched items so that they can be used or displayed and enjoyed rather than languishing in a drawer. Some people have a knack for it, and they produce cushions, wall-hangings, tea cosies, bottle holders, cot blankets, fabric bonbon dishes, stitcher’s etuis, mobile phone cases, keyrings and useful-boxes-to-put-things-in at the drop of a hat. I struggle beyond cards and coasters. It’s true that I have produced a fair number of bookmarks, bags (both shopping and gift) and box tops and even the odd pen holder and tray, but my problem is always that finishing items takes a lot of time if you want to do it properly. Take bookmarks. Both four-sided edging and buttonhole edging produce a lovely finish, but boy they’re labour intensive! And sewing a patch securely onto a cotton bag is very fiddly as you have to have one hand inside the bag all the time and feel your way blindly – not exactly quick.

That in itself needn’t be a problem of course, but the truth is that I’d rather be stitching a new project than properly finishing an old one. This is partly because I honestly believe that the enjoyment I get from a project while stitching it is reason enough to stitch, whether or not the resulting piece of embroidery gets used for anything – much like a walk along the beach or a visit to a concert (Stuart Townend was fabulous last night!) it’s about the pleasure of the moment. Even so, it is of course even better if you can go on enjoying it afterwards and in stitching, that is where finishing comes in. Fortunately quite a lot of my designs are just the right size for cards…

One thing I did have to finish was the model I stitched for my workshop at the Spring Knitting & Stitching Show at Olympia. The organiser had asked for a picture of the patch attached to something vaguely home or clothing related, and as I didn’t think it would be practical to carry a cushion along to the show I decided on a cotton bag. No, I’m not sure how that relates to home or clothing either, but she accepted the suggestion so I wasn’t going to argue. The design is surrounded by a broken border of coloured cross stitches so I attached the patch with an additional broken border of white cross stitches – and here it is:

The K&S 2014 patch sewn on to a gift bag How the patch is attached

There is something else I need to finish, in yet another sense. Yes, I am finishing designing for the Floral Lace series. Really. Honest. 18 is enough, and I’m running out of filling stitches. Although the kind gift from a fellow Cross Stitch Forum member has given me some ideas for a different beaded filling stitch… perhaps for the 2015 SAL?